November 14, 2009

Movement, directional vectors, ritournelles, rhythms and refrains


It is obvious that we are all suspended over the same abyss, even if we use different means in order not to see it. We are all at the mercy of the same stupor that can take you by the throat and literally suffocate you. We are all like Swann, half crazy after his separation from Odette and fleeing, like the plague, any mention that could evoke, even indirectly, her existence.

That is why we each cling to our own semiotic scaffoldings in order to continue walking down the street, waking up each day, and doing what is expected of us. Otherwise everything would stop, people would bang their heads against the wall. The way to have a lust for life, to maintain commitments, to forget oneself is not simple or obvious. “What for?!” has incredible power. It is much stronger than Louis XV and his “après moi le déluge!” It is worth trying to keep everything up, taking the heritage of generations, keeping the machine running, having kids, doing science, making literature or art? Why not break down, burst and leave it all in the lurch? That’s the question. Giving way to it is always only so far away…

The answer of course is at the same time both personal and collective. In life, one can only hold on to momentum. Subjectivity needs movement, directional vectors, ritournelles, rhythms and refrains that beat time to carry it along. The most singular and personal factors have to do with social and collective dimensions. It is stupid to imagine a psychogenesis independent of contextual dimensions, but that’s what psychologists and psychoanalysts do.

Jean Oury, who got me up on my feet when I was twenty, when I was pretty lost, provides a telling recipe. Many times, and at length, I explained my anxiety crises and attacks to him, without seeming to move him in any way. Until one day, he answered me with this zen-style response, “It comes over you at night in your bed, before you fall asleep? Which side do you sleep on? Okay, so all you have to do is try the other side.”

Analysis is sometimes like that, a little turnaround is necessary. The humility of the earliest days of the church is what’s needed, and to say to oneself, “So what. It doesn’t matter. Inch Allah…” It’s really basic. Of course one can’t just say this in any old way. One must also have the right semiotic lozenges handy; the precise little indexes that can rock significations, giving them an a-signifying bearing, and working with humor or surprise: the dope fiend with a gun in his hand who you ask for a light.

This is how the instant fuses with the world. It’s in this register that the category of poetic performance, the music of John Cage, the ruptures of Zen – it doesn’t matter what you call it – are found. But they’re never acquired. Juggling has to be learned, like playing scales. One acquires a relative mastery in certain situations, not in others, and then this can change with age, etc. One of the stupidest things about the psychoanalytic myth is to think that after you have put in your ten years on the couch, you are necessarily stronger than those who haven’t. Not at all! There is no relation between the two! Analysis should simply give you a boost of virtuosity, like a pianist, for certain difficulties. It should give you more freedom, more humor, more willingness to jump from one scale of reference to another… Therefore, I would say, in order to continue living, one should circulate in supportive orbits. Shakespeare, we know nothing about him, but we know that he had a “supportive” environment. So, go on, it’s now or never, it’s time for your last next act, right away. You’re depressed? Don’t let it get to you, they’re waiting…

- Felix Guattari, Chaosophy


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